Fisheries and trade of species listed on CITES Appendix II, with a focus on seahorses

International trade regulations are important tools to ensure sustainable use of wildlife, but their effects on marine fishes are rarely examined. In this thesis, I evaluated patterns and changes in international trade of marine fishes whose exports are regulated under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). I focused on the case study of seahorses (Hippocampus spp.), which were the first marine fishes with exports controlled under CITES (Appendix II) in 2002, but also investigate international trade for all animal species on Appendix II.

In my first two research chapters, I investigated how implementation of CITES at the national level affected seahorse fisheries and trades. My study focused on Thailand, the country that has long exported the most seahorses. In Chapter 2, I showed that fishers reported different catch rates over varying reporting time periods. This correlation could greatly influence catch estimates and have implications for management that draws on fishers’ knowledge. In Chapter 3, I found that seahorse catch and domestic trade did not change after the Thai government set an export quota for seahorses, even though formal export data showed notable declines in volume.

In my next two research chapters, I considered trade dynamics at the global scale. In Chapter 4, I found that once the CITES Appendix II listing came into effect, total weight of seahorses in documented global trade decreased, recorded seahorse exports became dominated by few countries, and prices for seahorses increased. In Chapter 5, I explored trade patterns for all CITES Appendix II animal species. I discovered that the USA appears to be the centre of reported wildlife trade but also that several Asian countries were emerging as important importers. I also found that the trade in marine fishes and non-coral invertebrates involved more countries with more connections than other Appendix II taxa.

My thesis highlights the opportunities and limitations of using export controls in managing the trade in marine fishes. These findings have implications for the implementations of global agreement, wildlife trade monitoring and conservation effort prioritizing.

Kuo, T.C. (2017). Fisheries and trade of species listed on CITES Appendix II, with a focus on seahorses. Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia, Canada.